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First of all, your evidence does not support your strongly worded hypothesis. You say that Republicans see people as good and Democrats see people as evil. The evidence you present, however, could also be used to support a more modest hypothesis: that Republicans think that people's tendencies toward good are a more important guide to public policy than their tendencies toward evil. Unless you can show that the more modest hypothesis doesn't fit the evidence, it's bad form to maintain the more audacious one.

You portray the Democrats and Republicans as having opposite philosophies, but in fact they agree on almost everything. Should there be welfare, public schools, treatment for drug offenders, truth in advertising laws, police departments, fire departments, dog catchers, a national military, laws against racial discrimination, etc., etc? Democrats and Republicans both say that there should be.

Your analysis would make sense if you were contrasting Democrats and Libertarians. Libertarians are the ones who exalt individual choice over collective action. Compared to the Libertarians, the Democrats and Republicans are largely alike. In fact, your analysis makes as much sense contrasting Libertarians with Republicans as with Democrats. How can you explain this similarity if you say the Democrats and Republicans have opposite views of human nature?

The differences between Republicans and Democrats are differences of degree. How much welfare should there be? How much funding should public schools get? How many drug offenders should get treatment? How strictly should the government regulate advertising? How much should the government tax citizens?

For that matter, this difference of degree is reversed depending on whether you're talking about economic or social issues. For social issues, it would seem that it's the Democrats who say that people are good and can be trusted to make their own decisions: about whether to marry someone of the same sex, whether to use birth control, whether to get an abortion, whether to smoke pot to ease the side effects of chemo, etc. You dismiss the prohibitive habit of Republican lawmakers as not essential to the party's identity, but a theory is weak if it requires one to disregard evidence in order for it to hold together.

Before I leave this topic, let me note that you no longer are making special claims about the Republicans' honesty. Given Bush's performance, that's understandable.

Since I reject your theory of the difference between Democrats and Republicans, it's incumbent on me to offer one of my own. Simply put, the Republican party is for winners and the Democrat party is for losers.

Who mostly votes Republican? Whites. Men. The rich. Church-goers. Who mostly votes Democrat? Minorities. Women. The poor. Religious outsiders. Gays. Ex-cons. The Republican party is for the people that our culture designates as the right, good, strong people: rich, white, God-fearing men. The Democrat party is for the rest of us, the ones designated as weak, crazy, soft, deficient, inferior, and perverted. You addressed this divide yourself in your latest post, pointing out that the Republicans view politics from the perspective of success while the Democrats view it from the perspective of the historically oppressed.

The winners have scant sympathy for losers. Jail the sodomites. Jail the stoners. Jail the hookers. Keep the women in their place. Let the poor fend for themselves and pay taxes at the same rate as Steve Forbes. Eliminate help for historically oppressed minorities. Put the Ten Commandments in the courthouse and let the heathens know that this is not their country. Bomb the infidels.

The winner/loser theory explains why the Republicans sometimes promote and sometimes oppose freedom. They want more freedom for the winners (tax cuts for the wealthy, freedom from government regulation for big corporations) and less freedom for the losers (laws against sodomy, abortion, pot).

That said, the distinction between the winners and the losers is not a fundamental philosophical divide. You see the Democrats and the Republicans as operating from opposite understandings of human nature. In fact, the two parties agree on more than they disagree on, and differences between them are differences of degree. While the Republicans are predominantly aligned with the winners, Jesus' message that we are to judge ourselves by how we treat the least fortunate has reached them, too. Even a corporate man like Bush once styled himself as a "compassionate conservative." The Democrats, for their part, may side with the losers, but there are still juicy campaign contributions to be earned by helping big corporate donors. The Republicans side with the winners more than the Democrats do, and the Democrats side more with the losers than the Republicans do, but each party shows some support for both winners and losers. The difference between favoring the winners and favoring the losers defines the parties' differences. US culture, an even more powerful force, defines their similarities.

PS: If the terms "winners" and "losers" are too strong, you can try "insiders" and "outsiders." Or "first class citizens" and "second class citizens."

February 2004

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